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Snowden Becomes Latest Leaker Charged with Espionage Under Obama

Edward Snowden has officially been charged with violating the Espionage Act, the Justice Department said last Friday. The former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor faces charges of “unauthorized communication of national defense information” and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person,” after leaking agency documents describing the government’s surveillance programs.

From the New York Times:

Mr. Snowden, who has said he was shocked by what he believed to be the N.S.A.’s invasion of Americans’ and foreigners’ privacy, told The Guardian that he leaked the documents because he believed the limits of surveillance should be decided not by government officials in secret but by American citizens.

American intelligence officials have said his disclosures have done serious damage to national security by giving terrorists and others information on how to evade the intelligence net.

This is another example of the government’s inconsistent treatment of those who disclose classified information. As the Project On Government Oversight reported earlier this month, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta discussed top secret material at a 2011 event attended by on the writer of the movie Zero Dark Thirty. Panetta is just one of a list of government officials who appear to have faced no disciplinary action for disclosing state secrets, while others, such as CIA employees John Kiriakou and Jeffrey Sterling, Pfc. Bradley Manning, and Department of Justice attorney Thomas Tamm have faced harsh penalties for similar disclosures.

More from the Times:

The charges against Mr. Snowden, first reported by The Washington Post, are the seventh case under President Obama in which a government official has been criminally charged with leaking classified information to the news media. Under all previous presidents, just three such cases have been brought.

Read more about the ongoing saga here.


By: Jana Persky
Intern, POGO

Photograph of Jana Persky Jana Persky is an intern for the Project On Government Oversight.

Topics: Whistleblower Protections

Related Content: Government Secrecy, Intelligence

Authors: Jana Persky

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